Job Doc

I have always been in the trade business, but due to a medical issue, I can no longer continue the physical parts of my work. How can I take my skills and use them in a different industry? Elaine Varelas guides

Trade skills are extremely valuable in this market and while the physical intensity may not be an option, that expertise is something many organizations are looking for. Elaine Varelas guides on how to successfully transfer trade skills to a new profession.

Ask the Job Doc.

Q: My skills are in the trade business, but due to a medical issue, I now have to look into a different career path. How can I translate my trade skills into a different profession?

A: I’m sorry for your medical issue. As you most likely know, trades people have remarkable value in this market, and they have been hard to come by. While you may not be able to do the same kind of physical work, I would encourage you to look for organizations who employ many trades people to see if your knowledge of your specific trade can move into a supervisory or management role as the customer interface between clients and the work that needs to be done. Supervisory and leadership roles shouldn’t take the same physical toll that trades often do, and this might be an opportunity for you to utilize your skills in a less labor-intensive role.


Additionally, if your skillset includes the ability to perform job estimates, organizations are looking for experts to go into the field, examine the work that needs to be done, and come back and put together an estimate or proposal to approach prospects and customers. Most trades people are experienced at dealing with customers, and so your customer service skills are something you’ll want to call on. You could also look into stores that provide the equipment that your trade used (for example: if you were a plumber, you may take a look at working for a wholesale or retail location selling plumbing fixtures, kitchen fixtures, or similar items). Having that additional knowledge of what’s needed could make you extremely marketable in that line of work, and customers would appreciate your insider knowledge.

Most trades people have some project planning skills, and those could prove very useful when it comes to finding a new opportunity. Perhaps you were in the building trades – would you be able to move into a surveying or an inspection role? If so, take a look at the credentials needed for these. Would you need to take a class to get a certification, or would your experience allow you to take on that responsibility?


If you ran your own business, did you do administrative work? Did you run payroll? If so, you can highlight these skills on your resume to show the kinds of software you have experience with and make sure to get these accomplishments quantified. Address number of people you were responsible for, length of time, and other items you managed, such as W2s and 1099s. Administrative work can translate across a broad range of organizations. If you were in the building and construction trade, you could also consider moving into the real estate sector. Your knowledge of construction, state laws, and standards are valuable and can make you more of a subject-matter expert in the field.

Evaluating every aspect of your trades’ responsibilities and not taking anything for granted will give you a broader view of the kinds of environments where your skillsets can be used. You may want to consider facilities or handyman roles at colleges, universities, or housing and management companies. These are critical roles where you would serve as the buyer of these services and the quality control expert. However, all these options depend on how long you’ve been in the trade. If you have five years of experience, you may have to make a more significant career change than someone with decades of experience. They will be more valuable in the transferable skills area and adjacent industries.


If you’re new to whatever trade role this is, take advantage of the opportunity to look at other areas of interest. Is this the time for you to get a certification or to go back to school? Additionally, consider others who would love the opportunity to learn from you. Look at high schools, trade schools, or community centers offering classes. If you are very experienced, can you take on an apprentice? You could help someone get started in the business. There are many individuals looking for the opportunity to learn from someone with hands-on experience. Losing the opportunity to work at your craft is a loss to be recognized and taken seriously, but don’t give up hope. Your skills, expertise, and experience can be utilized elsewhere. It just takes some creativity and talking to lots of people on your part.


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